SO the votes have been counted, the winner announced and the many losers sent homeward to think again. Rutherglen and Hamilton West was always going to be a two-horse race and in the end the bookies got it right and Labour won the day.

The SNP have just over a week to digest the result before their conference in Aberdeen. Sadly, there appears to be no time allocated on their agenda for a corporate post-mortem or reflection on how and why it went wrong.

I hope there is no attempt to allocate any part of the blame to the SNP candidate, who appeared to make the best of a difficult situation.

The recall of the former SNP MP – a process assisted by the SNP – ensured that things did not begin well. The Labour Party did not have to look too far to find many political weaknesses to exploit in the weeks of the campaign.

Voters were easily reminded of police investigations, ferries that might never sail, bottles that will not be recycled, gas boilers that will have to be replaced and gender reforms that most of them did not agree with.

If social media is any way to judge campaigns, it was clear that both Labour and the SNP relied heavily on what has become known as the “payroll vote” – MPs, MSPs, councillors and their staff.

The fact the SNP felt the need to resort to paying a company to deliver their leaflets says much about the current state of the party, while Labour even made the number of English Labour MPs taking it in turns to visit for a day a bizarrely positive feature of their campaign.

In the end, I suspect the two campaigns cancelled each other out and the result would have been much the same if the election had been held in early September.

For the SNP, it was lost a long time ago, by years of inaction on the independence battlefield and flawed policy decisions taken over the past nine years. Sadly, I doubt the result will force the change in attitude needed to put the SNP back on the rails.

The countdown to the UK General Election has begun in earnest. In probably a year’s time, all of Scotland will have its say. Based on this by-election, it is not going to be a good result for the SNP or for Scotland.

John Baird


WHEN is a country not a country? According to the BBC, it is when that country is Scotland and there is nothing bad to report. Listening to Question Time on September 28, it became clear as the programme unfolded that the host, Fiona Bruce (born to a Scottish father and English mother), considered recent increasing knife crime and resultant killings across England and Wales to represent the situation across “the country”, presumably including Scotland.

The reference to what was meant by the term “the country” became even more blurred when discussion moved to the colossal debacle that is HS2 and the claimed political ambition of “levelling up”.

Manchester was referred to as in “the North”. Although 200 miles north of London, that is only half the distance between London and Edinburgh or Glasgow (and a quarter of the distance between London and Haroldswick in Shetland).

By implication, when it came to discussing the UK Government’s “levelling up”, that ambition apparently did not include Scotland (which wisely, for related reasons, voted against Brexit). But when drug and alcohol deaths have been referenced recently, it has invariably been made abundantly clear, across BBC news and political programmes, that the tragic figures are relatively higher in Scotland as distinct from the rest of the UK.

Furthermore, either implied, or more often directly reported, the blame for this grim situation is laid exclusively at the door of the Scottish Government in spite of the fact the disproportionately high number of deaths have their roots in decades of under-investment in the “Far North” while the major economic levers have been, and still are, controlled by a distant Westminster Parliament, which continues to focus major infrastructure investment in “the South” (as exemplified by the tens of billions of pounds already spent on HS2 between London and Birmingham).

Perhaps the BBC hierarchy, along with the rest of the “British Establishment”, is content for this confusing situation that effectively denigrates the Scottish Government and by implication Scotland to persist, but if so, why? I think most supporters of independence know the answer to that question.

Stan Grodynski

Longniddry, East Lothian

ONCE again I find myself returning to my campaign against the silly and insulting use of “up here” when referring to this ancient country. Iain Kilgallon committed this sin twice in his “Website Comment” in Wednesday’s National.

Might I remind him and others who are guilty of this calumny that we, as citizens of Scotland, are not “up”, we are “here”. Why the need for a southern frame of reference? Those doing this have a severe dose of The Cringe, and need a course of rehabilitation.

Ken Gow